The thing about coming-of-age stories is that everyone has one, which makes it different than everything else at the movies: we are not all rescuing the world from supervillains, falling in love with handsome strangers, or traveling the world in search of fame and fortune.
Yet good coming-of-age stories are tricky to make. John Hughes pulled it off over and over again in the 80s and 90s because he told stories of ordinary teenagers in ordinary situations. But plenty of teen movies and TV shows—though they're often fun to watch—tend toward the cinematic equivalent of actual high school: those are the pretty, fun, cool kids up there, the ones who have everything together and throw great parties. And the rest of us? We're all the dorks in the audience.
This is one of the greatest achievements of The Spectacular Now: its teenagers are real. They do really dumb things. They're in denial about their failings even as they try to do what's right. Sometimes they seem like confident adults, and then sometimes they're lost, scared children. They even look like normal teenagers, blemishes and scars and all, and they act and talk and relate like ordinary teenagers who are still finding their feet.
Based on the beloved YA novel (a 2008 National Book Award finalist) and adapted by the screenwriter behind 500 Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now is a story of a boy, Sutter, who falls for a girl, Aimee. Sutter (Miles Teller, from the Footloose remake) is the sort of high school senior whom teachers love and ruefully hate: he's not a great student, but he's always smiling and respectful—he just can't get his act together long enough to actually study. He's fun, and funny, and friendly ...